Fremantle Stuff > Hospitals > Hillcrest House

Hillcrest House

1904, Helen St (now Turton St) North Fremantle between Harvest Road and John St


Hillcrest House, 23 Harvest Road North Fremantle, was built by Francis Pearse (b. 1847, son of William Pearse) and donated to the Salvation Army by his widow Emma (nee Snook) in 1922 as a maternity hospital. It was later a haven for unmarried mothers and their children who were adopted, and then the Hillcrest Senior Citizen's Residence. The site is now Regis North Fremantle (aged care facility). The original building has been retained, but only embedded in the southern side of a huge characterless three-storey building that takes up every possible bit of the site, right up to the corner of Harvest and Turton Rds, quite a long way from Pearse's building.


Hillcrest was constructed in 1904 for Francis Pearse, of the prominent Pearse family, and occupied by him from its construction until his death. Francis Pearse earned his fortune as a young man through business interests in Dongara. He was one of five sons [another source shows eight] of prominent early Fremantle resident William Pearse. Together with two of his brothers, Pearse established and managed the Pearse Brothers Tannery and Boot Factory in North Fremantle, which operated from 1871 until 1962, when it was demolished. Hillcrest was an imposing two-storey mansion overlooking the Swan River, located in extensive grounds that ran the length of Helen Street between Harvest Road and John Street. It was constructed to face Helen Street [it looks to me now - but it may have looked different when built - as tho it faces the river, that is, down the hill towards John St, not Helen St - which is now Turton St, by the way] and had substantial outbuildings in the grounds towards Harvest Road, which remained until at least 1939. In 1922, Hillcrest was donated to the Salvation Army by Francis’ widow, apparently at his request. It was first used as a maternity hospital, which also served as a training hospital, and later converted for use as an elderly care facility.
This place was included in the 'North Fremantle Heritage Study' (1994) as a place contributing to the development and heritage of North Fremantle. It was also included in the list of heritage places in the City of Fremantle identified by the Fremantle Society (1979/80) - PURPLE - of architectural and historic significance in its own right.
Hillcrest, comprising the original Hillcrest residence, a two storey stucco and tile Victorian Italianate style building of the Federation period, together with a two storey brick and asbestos former maternity hospital in the post World War Two International Style, a hostel constructed in brick and asbestos cement in the post World War Two Perth Regional style, and early Norfolk Island Pines, has cultural heritage significance for the following reasons:
The place is a very fine example of a Victorian Italianate style residence with a sympathetic 1934 addition in a matching style;
Albeit altered through time to serve alternate uses, the place demonstrates the distinctive accommodation and way of live of the mercantile elite in the early twentieth century, having been built in 1901 for Francis Pearse as a large suburban residence with marine views to the Swan River and Indian Ocean;
The place was converted to a maternity hospital for unmarried mothers in 1922 following its donation to the salvation Army by Francis Pearse’s widow Emma, and this use continued for over 50 years, as well as midwife training; and,
The place has served as part of a Salvation Army aged care facility since 1978.
The 1979 hostel and the 1979 dining room building are aesthetically unsympathetic additions and do not contribute to the cultural heritage significance of the place. The 1958 Wing is of little significance.
Two storey large rendered brick and iron house was designed as an example of the Victorian Italianate style of architecture. Walls are rendered brick with decorative stucco moulding and simple classical-style detailing. The roof has Dutch gables. The house has a three storey balustraded turret and faceted two storey bay. Arched windows with decorative stucco detailing are used extensively. The two storey bullnosed verandah was supported by paired decorated iron posts with a filigree balustrading on the first floor. The house is located within the Hillcrest Salvation Army site and is not easily viewed from the street. Heritage Council.

Heritage Council citation for 2017 award

In 2012, Regis Aged Care embarked on a project to conserve, reinvigorate and enhance the heritage values of Hillcrest in North Fremantle, as part of a larger upgrade to their aged care facilities.
Built as a residence, it was adapted to provide maternity care in the 1920s, and since 1978, aged care. The variety of uses resulted in many unsympathetic changes, which were reversed as part of the works. An intrusive and poor quality 1970s accommodation block was removed. Original verandahs with wrought-iron balustrades were reinstated, as were original fireplaces, ceiling roses and the grand central stair. Importantly, the main entry to the aged care facility through Hillcrest’s front doors was reinstated, once more positioning the ‘front face’ of this majestic building.
The key challenges were in ensuring that services were discreetly incorporated with minimal impact on the heritage fabric of the building. Lifts and ramps also had to be installed for the provision of universal access.
The conservation and adaptive reuse project has successfully reversed many of the unsympathetic changes and returned a grand building to contemporary use.

References and Links

Grant Steve 2014, 'Eviction looms for elderly', Fremantle Herald Interactive.

Heritage Council page

Hillcrest recommended for a heritage award

Wikipedia list of heritage places in Fremantle

Regis webpage

Garry Gillard | New: 29 November, 2014 | Now: 16 November, 2018